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The Maryland Suicide Prevention Model


It is a fact that more people die by their own hand than are murdered in this country. According to the American Association of Suiciology (AAS), youth suicide rates more than doubled between 1950’s and the late 70’s, and were largely stable through 1994 when they started decreasing. Most recently (2009), Maryland has seen an increase in the number of suicides among youth and adults. Clearly suicide is a problem that continues to be a problem of State and national concern. Suicide remains the third leading cause of death nationally and in our State for youth 15 to 25 years of age. Maryland began to address this problem when in 1986, the Maryland General Assembly passed SJR7 and HJR47 creating the Gubernatorial Task Force on Youth Suicide Prevention. In this same year, house bill 1221 was passed which established the Youth Suicide Prevention School Program Committee by the Maryland State Department of Education. This law also required that the Maryland State Department of Education provide suicide prevention programs in Maryland schools. The Department of Education was also required by law to report to the Governor and the General Assembly annually, progress made in implementing suicide prevention programs in the schools across our State. In July 1987 the Governor’s Task Force for Youth Suicide Prevention issued, For A Better Tomorrow, “A Plan For Youth Suicide Prevention in Maryland”. This report outlined the problem of youth suicide in our State and outlined a comprehensive strategy to reduce these deaths. According to the Task Force report, Maryland had over 100 youth suicide completions each year. Subsequently, in 1990 Maryland’s Governor asked the Mental Hygiene Administration to hire an administrator to appoint members to and to chair a Governor’s Interagency Workgroup on Youth Suicide Prevention. This workgroup was charged with implementing the recommendations outlined in the Task Force report and leading the State’s prevention affords. The workgroup was to be chaired by the State administrator for Youth Suicide Prevention, who was to serve as the focal point to lead Maryland's Youth Suicide Prevention initiative.

The Maryland Model

The Maryland Model’s comprehensive approach to suicide prevention offers multiple services that have facilitated a synergy and a coordinated afford which has made it more effective than one single approach. The Maryland Suicide Prevention Program is based on a prevention model and the belief that suicide is a, “complex problem that needs comprehensive solutions”. This program’s success is due to these underlining principals and other factors as support from the executive and legislative branches of government, consistent collaboration and funding coming from all youth focused departments in state government, formal contractual working relationship with community base organizations and crisis centers, strong commitment to gatekeeper training and community education, support and advocacy from consumers, and a commitment to a full array of prevention, intervention, and postvention (after a suicide) activities.
Recognizing the relation between depression and State Mental Hygiene Administration has lead the charge to reduce youth suicide by providing the major funding and resources for this program for the past twelve years.

The Maryland model has primarily targeted programs to youth 15 to 24 years of age. Focusing on middle, high school, and college students. This program has also targeted “at risk” populations as gay and lesbian, institutionalized, and African American youth. Recognizing the high rate of suicide among adults, particularly the elderly, in 1999 this program began to educate the public on the issue of suicide among adults as well.

Governor’s Interagency Workgroup on Youth Suicide Prevention

Includes representatives from Mental Hygiene Administration, Governors Office for Children Youth and Families, Maryland State Department of Education, Department of Human Resources, Department of Juvenile Justice, AIDS Administration, Department of Alcohol and Drugs, and the Office of Chief Medical Examiners.
This group is charged with overseeing the operation of Maryland’s Suicide Prevention Program and functioning of committees under it charge.

Committee under the auspices of the workgroup include:

  • Hotline Committee
  • Conference Committee
  • “At Risk” Populations Committee
  • Research committee
  • P.R. committee
  • School Health Committee

Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline

One of the major components of the Maryland Model is the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline (1(800) 422-0009. This is the first decentralized 24/7 hotline network in the country. This service has provided crisis intervention, information and referral, and community outreach all over the state since 1990. -This project has been a ten-year partnership between the Mental Hygiene Administration, six local crisis centers, and the Center for Substance Abuse research at the University of Maryland. The crisis centers include the Grassroots Hotline Center, Prince George County hotline, Life Crisis Center, Frederick Country Hotline, and Walden Sierra, and the Montgomery County Hotline. The first four centers are certified by the American Association of Suicidology and are linked directly to one 1800 number. When calling the 1800 number anywhere in Maryland the caller will receive assistance from the center closest to the caller. -The State Coordinator formed the Youth Crisis Hotline Committee; this group meets monthly to coordinate hotline services and community outreach to youth and gatekeepers.

Annual Suicide Prevention Conference

  • 400 to 500 people attend this event each year.
  • The year 2000 will mark the 12th annual conference.

Annual Suicide Prevention Month

  • Community and school activities around prevention
  • Poster competitions, media involvement, etc.

School Program

  • Each of the 24 school districts in Maryland has received funding to prevent suicides.
  • Many school program include the following:
    Gatekeeper training-directed at school staff (teachers, counselors, social workers, coaches, etc.)
  • Crisis teams
  • Peer helper programs
  • Suicide education and referral
  • Youth suicide prevention month activities


  • The Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline uses paid and volunteer.
  • Volunteers are used with the annual conference and referred to the hotline or to advocacy groups to work.

Community Education

  • The State Coordinator, hotline staff, and others have trained thousands of community members on suicide prevention, intervention, and post-vention issues and resources.
  • Send out thousands of pamphlets, fact sheets, and other resources to the public.
  • Act as clearinghouse and resource to the public for information and resources related to suicide.
  • At Risk Populations
  • Organized first forum for gay and lesbian youth
  • Conduct workshops on sexual minority youth and suicide
  • Provide outreach to sexual minority youth groups

Post-vention (Intervention after a suicide)

  • Organize teams to work with communities or schools after suicide.
  • Work with communities to prevent a cluster of suicides.
  • Developed guidelines for cluster prevention.
  • Work with the media on cluster prevention.

Outreach to Faith Community

  • Organized a one day seminar for clergy
  • Conducted several workshops on the faith community and suicide
  • Conduct suicide prevention workshops at churches

Media awareness

  • First T.V.special on Youth Suicide prevention and a yearlong public service campaign with channel 45 funded by Pizza Hut.
  • Partnership with the Mental Health Association’s Caring for Every Childs Mental Health Campaign.
  • Developed guidelines and trained media on how to cover a suicide
  • Maryland’s program highlighted on Nationally syndicated show, Inside Edition.
    Frequently appear on radio and television programs to talk about prevention and the hotline.
  • Developed PSA’s about suicide.
  • Developed rap video featuring the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline.
  • State prevention administrator chaired the Lt.Governor’s Sub-committee on Youth Violence and The Media.

Gun Control

  • Affords by the Governor and other State officials to reduce the number of guns in the hands of youth.
  • Partnership with Marylanders Against Handgun abuse.
  • Educates the public about the relationship between handguns and suicide.

Maryland AIDS Hotline

  • Research shows that an increasing number of adults and now youth are becoming infected with HIV/AIDS in Maryland and across the country. This population has at risk for suicide. The hotline is a 24/7 decentralized service to assist individuals with crisis help, information and referral.
  • The administrator for suicide prevention is also the director for this service, which started July 1, 2000.
  • This innovative project is collaboration between the Maryland Mental Hygiene and AIDS Administrations. This service has a separate number for Marylanders who speak Spanish.

National Partnerships

White House

  • Handled several suicide referrals from the White House
  • Represented Maryland at the first White House briefing on Suicide

Harvard School of Public Health

  • Coordinate 5 national teleconferences on violence over the past three years.
  • State administrator selected to intern with the Harvard School of Public Health.

Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network (Span)

  • Assisted in organizing first national conference
  • Helped develop guidelines outlined in the surgeon general report on suicide, “call for Action”.


  • Maryland’s program work with this group to encourage the faith community’s knowledge base and involvement prevention affords.

American Association of Suicidiolgy

  • Presented poster session on Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline Model
  • Presented poster session on Maryland Model
  • Provide free space at Maryland’s conference for flyer, pamphlets, etc.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

  • Director of this national organization will speak at Maryland 12th annual conference
  • Assisted in Maryland with national media campaign.
  • Provide free space at Maryland’s conference for flyer, pamphlets, etc.

National Organization to Prevent Suicide Among People of Color (NOPSA)

  • Conducted workshops at first and second national conferences.

International Partnerships

  • Acted as consultant to Australian Government in planning their youth suicide prevention program.
  • Invited to Australia to present Maryland Prevention Model

Maryland’s Success

Over the past twelve years many have worked diligently in our state to save lives. According to a recent study conducted by the Big Horn Center for Public Policy (using data from the Federal Center for disease Control and Prevention), Maryland’s rate of suicide has decreased more than any other state from 1989 to 1998. Maryland’s suicide rate declined in every age group, most significantly among 15 to 24 year olds targeted by the program. Youth suicide rates showed dramatic reductions, down 21.4 percent overall, while nationally rates increased 11 percent. The Maryland Suicide Prevention program has been a model for other states in developing prevention, intervention, and postvention services. Maryland’s program has been featured on numerous Televisions, radio, and in the print media. The nationally syndicated show, Inside Edition highlighted this program and the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline in a feature story. The Australian government also used the Maryland Model as a template for developing their prevention program. Most recently, Maryland’s program was featured in the Newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News. It seems that the slogan used by the Maryland Suicide Prevention Program,“ A caring Community Saves Lives”, has finally come true.

Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline (YCH) 1-800-422-0009


Linkages to Life:

Office of Governor